Beyoncé’s mother defends her from online criticism over her skin color: ‘You perpetuate jealousy, racism, sexism, double standards’

At the premiere of the documentary about the Renaissance tour, some tabloids suggested that the artist had whitened her skin

Beyoncé on stage during her 'Renaissance' tour at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on July 29, 2023.Kevin Mazur (Getty Images)
María Porcel

Last week, many Americans celebrated Thanksgiving, which extended from Thursday to Sunday. But if anyone was able to shake people out of their holiday lethargy, that was Beyoncé. On Saturday, all the spotlights were pointed at L.A., which hosted the premiere of Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé, documenting the 42-year-old star’s Renaissance World Tour that took her across Europe, the United States and Canada from May to October in a series of 56 spectacular concerts. Beyoncé herself was obviously the queen of the party, which was not lacking in friends, colleagues and family. Prominent guests included Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, fellow bandmembers of her former group, Destiny’s Child. Other famous faces included the actresses Issa Rae, Laverne Cox, Janelle Monae and Lupita Nyong’o, the model Winnie Harlow, Kris Jenner, the director Tyler Perry, Vanessa Bryant (Kobe Bryant’s widow) and her daughter Natalia. Beyoncé's parents, Mathew and Tina Knowles, who got a divorce in 2011 after 29 years together, posed separately on the red carpet, but did not miss it either. Now, Tina Knowles has spoken out in support of her daughter and in the wake of an online controversy fueled by certain media outlets regarding the color of Beyoncé’s skin.

With a silver curtain in the background, and with Afrofuturism as inspiration, the singer stepped out on the red carpet in a silver dress, matching gloves and eye shadow of the same color, and with long, very straight platinum blonde hair. Silver was a constant on the red carpet of the Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences, where the event took place. That shade, together with the whitish light of the spotlights and the extreme blonde hue of her hair, might produce the effect of a light skin tone, yet many tabloids were quick to warn of a possible skin whitening, together with photographs allegedly depicting the before and after. This content began to spread like wildfire on social media.

On Tuesday, the singer’s mother published a long text on her Instagram account, under an image of Beyoncé on the night of the premiere, and a video in which the artist is seen in various interviews, talk shows and award ceremonies where, depending on the light, hair, clothing, camera angle and other factors, the singer’s skin tone looks different.

“Came across this today and decided to post it after seeing all of the stupid, ignorant, self-hating racist statements about her, lightening her skin, and wearing platinum hair wanting to be white. She does a film, called the Renaissance, where the whole theme is silver with silver hair, a silver carpet, and suggested silver attire and you bozos decide that she’s trying to be a white woman and is bleaching her skin? ... How sad is it that some of her own people continue the stupid narrative with hate and jealousy,” the artist’s mother, 69, wrote to her more than four million followers. Tina Knowles also accuses some American tabloids of seeking statements from Neal Farinah, the artist’s hairdresser, to the effect that Beyoncé was trying to be white.

But for Tina Knowles “what’s really most disappointing is that some Black people, yes you bozos that’s on social media. Lying and faking and acting like you’re so ignorant that you don’t understand that Black women have worn platinum hair since the Etta James days. I just went and looked at all the beautiful, talented Black celebrities who have worn platinum hair and it has been just about everyone of them at one time or another. Are they all trying to be white?” Knowles argues. “I am sick and tired of people attacking her. Every time she does something that she works her ass off for and is a statement of her work ethic, talent and resilience. Here you sad little haters come out [of] the woodwork. Jealousy and racism, sexism, double standards, you perpetuate those things. Instead of celebrating a sister or just ignoring if you don’t like her. I am sick of you losers.”

At no point does Knowles mention her daughter’s name. “I know that she is going to be pissed at me for doing this, but I am fed up! This girl minds her own business. She helps people whenever she can. She lifts up and promotes Black women and underdogs at all times.” There have been tens of thousands of responses, including from actresses such as Cynthia Erivo and Octavia Spencer.

Since she began to be part of the entertainment industry, at just 15 years old, and at different times in her life as an artist, Beyoncé's skin color has been a topic of discussion. With a contract with the French house L’Oréal since 2001, in 2008 there were accusations against the company for whitening her skin, precisely in some photographs in which the artist appeared with lighter hair, as now at the premiere of Renaissance. The multinational denied it. Beyoncé also wore platinum hair on the cover of her 2012 album 4, and also sparked comments about her skin tone. In 2017, Madame Tussaud’s museum in New York had to explain that her skin could be lighter due to “the lighting and flash in the photographs.”

The most controversial comment in this regard, however, came from her own father, Mathew Knowles, who represented her when she started out with Destiny’s Child and kept the position until 2011. In a 2019 interview with “The Clay Cane Show” on SiriusXM Urban View, he said that skin tone bias was still very present in the music industry, and that if his daughter had had darker skin, “I am convinced that she would not have had the same success. Look what happened to Kelly Rowland,” he said, alluding to her bandmate, whose career has not been as meteoric as Beyoncé's. “In the music industry there’s still segregation,” said Knowles. “Programmers, especially at pop radio, have this imagery of what beauty looks like. If you look back even at Whitney Houston, if you look at those photos, how they lightened her to make her look lighter-complexioned … Because there’s a perception and a colorism: the lighter that you are, the smarter and more economically [advantaged]… There’s a perception all around the world about color — even with Black folks, there’s a perception.”

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